EMI to ditch iTunes DRM

Apple's iTunes Store is expected to begin selling Fairplay-free EMI tracks from today

British music giant EMI is expected to drop copy protection from its tracks on the iTunes Store . A formal announcement, featuring Apple CEO Steve Jobs, is due at 1pm today.

EMI has been threatening to drop digital rights management (DRM) since early February, and will be the first major record label to do so, if the rumour, originally reported by Wall Street Journal [login required], comes to pass. You'll be able to find out what EMI CEO Eric Nicoli and Apple CEO Steve Jobs have to say, by listening into the live audio webcast at 1pm.

What's not clear is whether Apple has been forced to pay compensation to EMI in return for dropping the demand for DRM on tracks available from the iTunes Store. Apple currently uses its own FairPlay DRM to protect audio and video tracks - something it says it does only at the insistence of record and other media companies.

It's also unclear what effect, in any, Warner Music's plans to takeover EMI will have on its DRM status in future. Warners is vehemently pro-DRM. In February CEO Edgar Bronfman said: "We advocate the continued use of DRM. The notion that music does not deserve the same protection as software, film, video games or other intellectual property, simply because there is an unprotected legacy product in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit."

Jobs, DRM and hypocrisy

Apple CEO Steve Jobs called for DRM to be scrapped in February in an open letter to Apple watchers, music fans and the record companies. While some welcomed the move, Jobs was also accused of hypocrisy .

The former owner of Pixar is now the biggest individual shareholder at Disney and sits on the entertainment company's board. FairPlay DRM is widely used on Disney/Pixar movies and audio tracks available on the iTunes Store.